Judge Dredd “The Death Watch” by Rory McConville, Paul Marshall, Dylan Teague and Annie Parkhouse.
Rory McConville kicks off the prog this week with a cautionary Dredd one-off which plays with some very timely anxieties. Our modern obsession with apps and Fitbits at the expense of our family life (and life itself) are neatly skewered in the story of poor citizen Gavin Meany. Looking like an ageing Henry Spencer from Eraserhead (another man who failed to cope with modern life), citizen Meany falls foul of perps and Judges alike before receiving a double whammy from Dredd and the robodoc at the end.
The balance here between dark humour and action is nicely poised; a little too much of either and the story would lurch between farce and misery. This is greatly helped by the efforts of the artistic pairing of Marshall and Teague. Teague’s bright colours lifting the protagonists up out of each panel particularly in the exchange between the Mc1’s worst Genius Bar employee and every shopworker’s worst customer nightmare. The standout page has to be when it all kicks off. There’s a real kinetic sense of burning danger to the gunfire which blazes out the page at readers and characters. And Dredd? He’s really only there to deliver the punchline but he does it so well you can’t begrudge the old man a relative light day at the office!
Jaegir “In the realm of Pyrrhus” Part 3 by Gordon Rennie, Simon Coleby, Len O’Grady and Ellie de Ville.
Jaegir starts to pick up the pace this week after the setting the scene in the last two episodes. We continue the theme of flitting back through memory which Rennie uses to great effect and O’Grady draws the distinction between past and present with some muted sepia tinting. We are on familiar ground with the trench assault which makes future war feel like a proper retro war story. Las-swords glow in the beautifully realised Nu-Earht night and hugely impractical axes are thrown about to great effect. Even the flashback feels like something we’ve experienced before; the not-quite-deathbed machinations of daddy Jaegir who is still surely one of the frontrunners in the hotly contested “Biggest Bastard on Nu-Earth” competition.
That said, the story doesn’t feel derivative at all, probably due to the quality of the characterisation. Atalia remains upright and disciplined with frosty politeness towards Jaegir senior who is damaged but dangerous and forceful as ever, manipulating Atalia’s sense of duty. He knows he can no longer rely on familial loyalty but her loyalty towards Nordland remains more or less intact, at least enough for his purposes.
Sinister Dexter “The devil don’t care” Part 1 by Dan Abnett, Steve Yeowell, John Charles and Annie Parkhouse.
Billi no mates may have bitten off more than she can chew in the new Sinister Dexter story. The Devil (is he the actual Devil? Who can say?) is a fine addition to the series, stopping the seemingly indestructible duo from seeming just that bit too indestructible. Abnett conveys a sense of panic from SinDex that lets the reader feel that Ramon and Finnigan might just not fancy their chances against him.
Even before they clash professionally they are gloriously unsettled by his very friendly interactions. Sinister Dexter‘s always been about the craic rather than creepy though with Abnett producing some zippy dialogue which entertains without feeling forced and even leans up against (but doesn’t quite break) the fourth wall to involve the narrator. Yeowell’s artwork allows us to soak up the chat by making every panel feel freeze-framed You don’t get distracted by movement but you can still hear that 6-ball fly out off the page and into your pint.
Anderson Psi-Division “Undertow” by Emma Beeby, David Roach, Jose Villarubia and Simon Bowland.
The plot thickens for Cassandra this week in Undertow and Emma Beeby is piling the pressure onto her. Anderson needs to take on the role of the clear, rational one as her Mega-City Scooby gang meet up and are instantly at each other’s throats. It’s a welcome continuation of the more mature Anderson as the senior Psi and it’s going to be interesting to see if she’s up to keeping everyone together and intact. So far so good though as she shows real steel along with her characteristic compassion in dealing with Karyn’s doctor/jailer.
As excellent as Beeby’s writing is, the artwork steals the show here. Particularly noteworthy is Karyn’s expression of absolute glee at being out of the cage and back on the bike. You can feel the wind in her face and in her glorious hair in stark contrast to her vampire self in the pages before and after. As if that’s not enough for you, they even cram in a Chief Judge conspiracy, a mysterious man with a mullet and a “Suddenly dinosaurs!” moment. Incredible stuff and all in 6 pages, roll on next week!
Strontium Dog “The Son” Part 3 by John Wagner, Carlos Ezquerra and Ellie de Ville.
Fools rush in where angels fear to tread and the big eejit Kenton jumps in with both feet, getting a good kicking for his troubles. Johnny typically doesn’t say too much about it but Wagner manages to let us see that he’s royally pissed off at his new liability/partner. Ezquerra is on solid wild west ground this week, that smack in the face really looked like it hurt. Surprisingly though, Wagner/Ezquerra’s best bit here is the moment of tenderness Johnny displays when patching the boy up midway through giving him a tongue-lashing.
Johnny’s almost fatherly in this moment of gentleness, recognisable to any dad who’s had to patch up their wean after they’ve done something seriously stupid. Nicely observed by both writer and artist in their typically understated way. That said, Johnny’s still a bounty hunter so he’s not going to miss the chance to pursue a side quest while Kenton’s conveniently sleeping. These dead glazers are imaginatively spooky and one suspects that Kenton may get the chance to redeem himself before long.